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Epigenetic effects of PTSD remediation in veterans using Clinical Emotional Freedom Techniques: A randomized controlled pilot study

Citation (APA Style): Church, D., Yount, G., Rachlin, K., Fox, L., & Nelms, J. (2016). Epigenetic effects of PTSD remediation in veterans using Clinical EFT (Emotional Freedom Techniques): A randomized controlled pilot study. American Journal of Health Promotion, 1-11. doi:10.1177/0890117116661154


Purpose: To assess the feasibility of measuring changes in gene expression associated with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) treatment using emotional freedom techniques (EFT).

Design: Participants were randomized into an EFT group receiving EFT and treatment as usual throughout a 10-week intervention period and a group receiving only treatment as usual (TAU) during the intervention period and then receiving EFT.

Setting: A community clinic and a research institute in California.

Subjects: Sixteen veterans with clinical levels of PTSD symptoms.

Intervention: 10 hour-long sessions of EFT.

Measures: Messenger RNA levels for a focused panel of 93 genes related to PTSD. The SA-45 questionnaire, Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale, Insomnia Severity Scale, SF-12v2 for physical impairments, and Rivermead Post-Concussion Symptoms Questionnaire.

Analysis: Pre, post-treatment and follow-up mean scores on questionnaires were assessed using repeated measures one-way ANOVA. A Student’s t test and post hoc analyses were performed on gene expression data.

Results: PTSD symptoms declined significantly in the EFT group (-53%, p < .00001). Participants maintained their gains on follow-up. Significant differential expression of six genes was found (p < .05) when comparing expression levels before and after the intervention period in participants receiving EFT.

Conclusion: Study results identify candidate gene expression correlates of successful PTSD treatment, providing guidelines for the design of further studies aimed at exploring the epigenetic effects of EFT.

Keywords: gene expression, epigenetics, EFT, Emotional Freedom Techniques, PTSD, posttraumatic stress disorder

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